Alyson Campbell – The Butch Monologues: performance as a bridge from ‘border wars’ to ‘playground’

The Butch Monologues, by Laura Bridgeman, directed by JulieMc McNamara. Theatre Works, Melbourne, 2019. L-R Fiona Jones, Anne Harris, Quinn Eades, Jax Jacki Brown, Jacques de Vere. Photo by Margherita Coppolino.


Alyson Campbell

University of Melbourne

The Butch Monologues: performance as a bridge from ‘border wars’ to ‘playground’

In this paper I look at The Butch Monologues (TBM) by Laura (Doc) Bridgeman, directed by JulieMc McNamara (Mack) (2013 – present). Based mainly on interview with the writer and director, and my own multiple viewings of the work, I examine how the collection and, more precisely, the productions of it, make an intervention into the very painful contemporary context, and history, of “‘border wars’ between butch lesbian and trans men” (Mackay, 2019b, p.399; and see Halberstam, 1998). I suggest that TBM manage to blur these borders, or at least niggle this negative framing, and I argue that the stories it tells, and the invitation to assemble and produce a form of kinship –  however temporary or tentative – are more vital than ever, given this current tension.

Keywords: The Butch Monologues (TBM), butch identities, trans masculinity, temporality, queer dramaturgy, assembly.

Alyson Campbell is a freelance director and dramaturg whose work spans a broad range of companies and venues in Australia and the UK over the last 30 years. She has collaborated most closely with Sydney playwright Lachlan Philpott since their production of his play Bison in 2000, creating queer assemblage wreckedAllprods with him in 2001. She  is an Associate Professor in Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, and her research, artistic practice as a director, teaching and activism converge around gender and sexuality, particularly queer performance and dramaturgies and contemporary representations of HIV and AIDS. She has written widely on these areas, most notably co-editing the collection Queer Dramaturgies: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer (Palgrave, 2015) with Stephen Farrier, RCSSD. She now likes to write about feral pedagogies and is passionate about Feral Queer Camping.